The York Theatre Company, which successfully staged the musical “Enter Laughing” ten years ago, has done it again. The result ranks among the company’s best productions. With a book by Joseph Stein and music and lyrics by Stan Daniels, it is superbly cast and directed, filled with laughs and colorful renditions of the songs, whether comic or romantic. You can have a wonderful time.
First, a bit of a history refresher: “Enter Laughing,” written by Joseph Stein from Carl Reiner’s novel, was a hit as a play in 1963 and gave a boost to the career of Alan Arkin, who played a young man aspiring to be an actor. It then became a film. In its further 1976 reincarnation as a musical under the title “So Long, 174th Street, Robert Morse had the lead.
In this new version, directed and musically staged by Stuart Ross, who also contributed additional material, the role of wannabe actor, David Kolowitz is played by Chris Dwan , and he is terrific. For one thing, he is very believable. For another he has his comically awkward moves down pat, with hilarious expressions and sputtering dialogue. His antics trying to play a role in a miserable company production, with his vaudevillian slapstick and precise timing, can have you in stitches. He also delivers his singing numbers effectively, including in duets with his girlfriend Wanda, played and sung with charm by Allie Trimm.
There is also a winsome supporting cast. David Schramm plays blustering director Marlowe, who is beside himself with David’s ineptness. He also rattles off the great number “The Butler's Song,” which cements David’s imagining himself a big Hollywood star, and his butler (sung by Schramm) warding off Garbo and other callers who want to have sex with David, whose schedule is packed with bedding famous women stars. I had enjoyed this song masterfully sung by the late George S. Irving in the York’s previous staging and on special occasions. Schramm makes the bawdy number delightfully his own.
Farah Alvin is a gem as Marlowe’s actress daughter Angela, who is hot for David and makes the most of a ribald number “The Man I Can Love.” David’s parents, who want him to become a pharmacist, not an actor, are played by Robert Picardo and Alison Fraser, with the mother tremendously funny with her doubled-edged number, “If You Want to Break Your Mother’s Heart.” Picardo also has a funny number, “Hot Cha Cha,” sung with Ray DeMattis as Mr. Forman, for whom David works. Dana Costello flashes plenty of sex appeal as Miss B, whom David also wants to date. Raj Ahsan, Magnes Jarmo and Joe Veale make up the rest of the troupe.
Jennifer Paulson-Lee contributes snappy choreography, and the score is played by a trio consisting of Phil Reno, music director and pianist, Perry Cavari on drums and Michael Kuennen on bass.
A pleasant surprise is the cameo appearance of genial James Morgan, the York’s producing artistic director, as someone who is persuaded to remove the tuxedo he is wearing to supply it in an emergency situation to David for the part he has to play. Given Morgan’s larger size in comparison to the slim built David, one is laughing even before David dons the overly loose-fitting tux.
The new mounting of “Enter Laughing” in such entertaining fashion is an indication of why that work has longevity. The laughs, the clever songs and the colorful roles still hold up. At the York Theatre at Saint Peter’s, 54th Street just east of Lexington avenue. Phone: 212-935-5820. Reviewed May 17, 2019.